Your Blood Pressure Numbers And What They Mean
Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
Which Number Is More Important
Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
However, either an elevated systolic or an elevated diastolic blood pressure reading may be used to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure. According to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.
How Can I Be More Active
- Check first with your healthcare provider before increasing your physical activity. Ask your provider what type and amount of exercise is right for you.
- Choose aerobic activities such as walking, biking or swimming.
- Start slowly and increase activity gradually. Aim for a regular routine of activity 5 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes each session.
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What Do The Readings Mean
As a general guide:
140/90mmHg or over you may have high blood pressureMost doctors use 140/90mmHg as the cut off for point for diagnosing . This is the point where your risk of serious health problems goes up. They might prescribe and advise you to make changes to your to bring your blood pressure down. 120/80mmHg up to 140/90mmHg pre-high blood pressureAlso called high-normal blood pressure. This is not high blood pressure, but it is a little higher than it should be and means you could go on to develop high blood pressure. See how you can make to lower it. 90/60mmHg up to 120/80mmHg ideal blood pressureAlso called normal blood pressure. Your blood pressure reading is healthy. At this level you have a much lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Following a will help you to keep it in the healthy range. 90/60mmHg or lower you may have low blood pressure usually isnt a problem, but it can sometimes make you feel faint or dizzy or could be a sign of another health problem.
The video below explains how your blood pressure numbers are linked to the risk of stroke and other disease.
Understanding Blood Pressure What Is It
Your blood pressure reading is a measurement of the pressure your blood applies across your artery walls. Your blood pressure changes a little throughout the day when you relax, your blood pressure lowers, and when you move around or feel stress, your blood pressure increases. But high blood pressure over a long term is associated with serious health risks, including heart, brain, and eye damage. Likewise, chronic low blood pressure sometimes comes with health risks. Fortunately, there are helpful ways to manage both high and low blood pressure.
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What If Lifestyle Changes Dont Help Lower My Blood Pressure
If diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes dont work to lower your blood pressure, your healthcare provider will prescribe medications to help lower your blood pressure. Your provider will take into account other conditions you may have, such as heart or kidney disease and other drugs youre taking when prescribing medications to treat your high blood pressure. Be sure to follow your providers dosing directions exactly.
What Can I Do To Prevent Heart Disease
There are many steps you can take to keep your heart healthy.
Try to be more physically active.Talk with your doctor about the type of activities that would be best for you. If possible, aim to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Every day is best. It doesn’t have to be done all at once.
Start by doing activities you enjoyâbrisk walking, dancing, bowling, bicycling, or gardening, for example. Avoid spending hours every day sitting.
If you smoke, quit.Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Smoking adds to the damage to artery walls. It’s never too late to get some benefit from quitting smoking. Quitting, even in later life, can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time.
Follow a heart-healthy diet. Choose foods that are low in trans and saturated fats, added sugars, and salt. As we get older, we become more sensitive to salt, which can cause swelling in the legs and feet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber, like those made from whole grains. Get more information on healthy eating from NIA. You also can find information on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Patterns.
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Symptoms Of Low Blood Pressure
Most doctors will only consider chronically low blood pressure as dangerous if it causes noticeable signs and symptoms, such as:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dehydration and unusual thirst
- Dehydration can sometimes cause blood pressure to drop. However, dehydration does not always cause low blood pressure. Fever, vomiting, severe diarrhea, overuse of diuretics and strenuous exercise can all lead to dehydration, a potentially serious condition in which your body loses more water than you take in. Even mild dehydration can cause weakness, dizziness and fatigue.
- Lack of concentration
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What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
Blood pressure readings are composed of two numbersfor example, 120/80 mm Hg.
The top number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number measures the pressure in your arteries between each heart beat.
The standard unit of measure, mm Hg, stands for “millimeters of mercury.” Mercury pressure gauges have been replaced with electronic pressure gauges, but the abbreviation is still used.
What Medications Are Used To Treat High Blood Pressure
Four classes of high blood pressure medications are considered first line when starting treatment. Sometimes other medications are coupled with these first-line drugs to better control your high blood pressure. First-line, pressure-lowering medications are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors block the production of the angiotensin II hormone, which the body naturally uses to control blood pressure. When angiotensin II is blocked, your blood vessels dont narrow. Examples: lisinopril , enalapril or captopril.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers block this same hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. ARBs work the same way as ACE inhibitors to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples: metoprolol , valsartan or losartan.
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, allowing these vessels to relax. Examples: amlodipine , nifedipine , diltiazem .
- Diuretics flush excess sodium from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill. Examples: indapamide, hydrochlorothiazide or chlorothiazide.
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How Is Blood Pressure Measured
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury and is given as 2 figures:
- systolic pressure the pressure when your heart pushes blood out
- diastolic pressure the pressure when your heart rests between beats
For example, if your blood pressure is “140 over 90” or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.
As a general guide:
- ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
Why Your Blood Pressure Is Too High
There are a number of reasons why a person may suffer from hypertension.
As we age, blood pressure typically increases due to the wear and tear accumulated by blood vessels over the years. There are also genetic factors that may influence blood pressure. For instance, African-Caribbean and South Asia communities tend to be at a higher risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure can also run in the family.
All other things being equal, high blood pressure is typically the result of lifestyle choices, particularly diet. Too much salt, not enough fruits and vegetables, and drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure. Being overweight and not exercising can also substantially increase the risk of hypertension.
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What Diet Helps Control High Blood Pressure
- Eat foods that are lower in fat, salt and calories, such as skim or 1% milk, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grain rice, and pasta.
- Use flavorings, spices and herbs to make foods tasty without using salt. The optimal recommendation for salt in your diet is to have less than 1500 milligrams of sodium a day. Dont forget that most restaurant foods and many processed and frozen foods contain high levels of salt. Use herbs and spices that do not contain salt in recipes to flavor your food do not add salt at the table.
- Avoid or cut down on butter and margarine, regular salad dressings, fatty meats, whole milk dairy products, fried foods, processed foods or fast foods, and salted snacks.
- Ask your provider if you should increase potassium in your diet Discuss the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet with your provider. The DASH diet emphasizes adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet while reducing the amount of sodium. Since it is rich in fruits and vegetables, which are naturally lower in sodium than many other foods, the DASH diet makes it easier to eat less salt and sodium.
Stroke And Brain Problems
High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a stroke because they do not get enough oxygen. Stroke can cause serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities. A stroke can also kill you.
Having high blood pressure, especially in midlife, is linked to having poorer cognitive function and dementia later in life. Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and dementia from the National Institutes of Healths Mind Your RisksÂ®external icon campaign.
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Normal Blood Pressure For Children
Normal BP ranges vary in children by age. The University of Iowa Stead Family Childrens Hospital provides this chart:
|Normal Blood Pressure for Children|
|112128 mm Hg||6680 mm Hg|
What is considered healthy for your child also varies by height, age, and sex. You can use Baylor College of Medicine’s calculator to see if your childs blood pressure reading is in a healthy range.
At Your Healthcare Provider’s Office
Some people have their blood pressure checked by a healthcare provider on a regular basis. There’s a good chance that these appointments are scheduled at different times of the day.
There’s also a good reason for that. A healthcare provider will do this on purpose to get a range of readings. These multiple readings are then averaged together into one overall result. It is used to give a diagnosis, according to standard guidelines on blood pressure.
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Blood Pressure Monitor Vs Blood Pressure Cuff
Blood pressure monitor and blood pressure cuff are two phrases often used to describe the same blood pressure measurement tool. The blood pressure cuff is the element that wraps around either the upper arm, wrist or finger to measure blood pressure. The blood pressure monitor is the element in charge of inflating and deflating the cuff, as well as providing your blood pressure reading on an easy-to-read display.
Most experts recommend using a blood pressure monitor with an upper arm blood pressure cuff for at-home readings because they tend to be more accurate than wrist cuffs and finger cuffs.
What Is Normal Blood Pressure
For years we have been told that a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 however, more and more doctors have now lowered these numbers to 115/75. Blood pressure is different for everyone as many factors can have an effect on the numbers.
Our blood pressure refers to the amount of force behind the blood as it hits the arterial walls. As the heart pumps the blood, an ideal pressure sees the blood push against the walls that are flexible enough to expand and retract easily. Over time, our age, diet, and physical activity play a role on the elasticity of our blood vessels. With a loss of flexibility due to hardening of the walls, the heart needs to work harder to push the blood.
These factors determine the blood pressure numbers. The systolic number is the top number, and it indicates the pressure as the heart beats or pushes the blood throughout the body. The diastolic number is the bottom number, and refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. During this time, the heart receives oxygen as it fills with blood.
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If You Notice A Sudden Decline In Blood Pressure
A single lower-than-normal reading is not cause for alarm, unless you are experiencing any other symptoms or problems. If you experience any dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea or other symptoms, its a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider. To help with your diagnosis, keep a record of your symptoms and activities at the time they occurred.
Is low blood pressure related to low heart rate? Find out.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
Last Reviewed: Oct 31, 2016
Heart Rate Vs Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measures the force that moves blood through your blood vessels while your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. They are both important health indicators, but they are measured independently and dont necessarily increase or decrease synchronously.
A temporary increase in heart rate, such as during exercise, is not considered problematic. In fact, your heart is expected to rise during a bout of activity and return to its resting rate afterward. And the more intense you work, the more you should expect your heart rate to rise during exercise. Your heart rate can safely double during activity so long as it returns to its resting rate relatively soon after you finish your workout.
Significant increases in blood pressure, on the other hand, are not normal and should be monitored and shared with your health care provider.
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How Can I Control My Blood Pressure
You can often lower your blood pressure by changing your day-to-day habits and by taking medication if needed. Treatment, especially if you have other medical conditions such as diabetes, requires ongoing evaluation and discussions with your doctor.
Lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent and lower high blood pressure:
In addition to recommending lifestyle changes, your doctor will likely prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure to a safe level. Isolated systolic hypertension, the most common form of high blood pressure in older adults, is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. You may try several kinds or combinations of medications before finding a plan that works best for you. Medication can control your blood pressure, but it can’t cure it. If your doctor starts you on medication for high blood pressure, you may need to take it long-term.
Reading A Blood Pressure Chart
Your BP monitor will display two numbers. The first number is systolic blood pressure . The second number is diastolic blood pressure .
In Canada, the ideal or low-risk systolic pressure is 120 or less. By contrast, the optimal diastolic blood pressure is 80 or less. So, if your BP reading is 120/80 or 117/78, you have normal blood pressure levels.
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